More than just a food bank: Multi-Service Center confronts poverty

The Multi-Service Center is well-known to Federal Way residents.

The local food bank serves thousands of clients each year. Tricia Schug, community relations manager, says that although the food bank is the most visible program of the MSC, it is only one of many.

The MSC also has emergency, transitional and permanent housing for low-income clients. Many of those clients are working parents who just need a little help, Schug said.

“Many of them are working for minimum wage and with large families. Sometimes they just can’t make it,” she said.

The MSC also has an energy assistance program, a clothing bank and an advocacy program for the elderly. The center also has employment and education assistance available.

Schug says this is a vital part of the MSC’s mission for clients to achieve self-sufficiency.

“We try to help them get out of poverty,” Schug said.

Volunteer tutors prepare students for the General Education Development (GED) exam. There is also an English as a Second Language (ESL) program and an Adult Basic Education program for those with special needs.

The YES program is specifically for at-risk youths to help assess needs and to determine goals. Family development specialists help clients with job searching, interviewing skills and resume development. They also work on budgeting, work ethics and communications skills.

Those same skills are a part of THRIVE, a program to help low-income people dealing with poverty and/or homelessness re-enter the workforce.

The YES and THRIVE programs now offer internships to help clients gain experience. Clients approved for the internship program are placed with participating businesses for approximately three months.

Clients are paid for their work, which is provided by a grant awarded to the MSC.

Charleena Lyles, 21, is one of the program’s success stories.

Lyles was receiving welfare when she was referred to the THRIVE program. The internship program placed her at Poverty Bay Coffee Company in Federal Way.

Having never worked in the coffee business before, Lyles was a little apprehensive at first.

“I thought it was going to be hard, but I like it,” Lyles said.

Alice Olmstead, co-owner of Poverty Bay Coffee, describes Lyles as a hard worker with a great attitude. The arrangement worked out well for both Olmstead and Lyles.

“I put her on my regular staff,” Olmstead said.

Lyles, now permanently employed, is no longer receiving welfare.

To learn more about Multi-Service Center, call (253) 835-7678 or visit